Getting out to hunt in 2015 has been a real challenge for me, but with my Wife and Son away on vacation, what better way to fill the solitude, than with an evening pig hunt.
I had secured access to a nice piece of Private Land, with a good size pond in the center of it. The area consists of rolling oak hills and some brushy canyons where pigs and blacktail deer like to take refuge from the grueling midday heat.
Temps had been well over 100 degrees for the high, for over a week. By trailcam record, the pond was getting hit pretty regularly by a small group of wild pigs (I had been coming out every couple weeks to swap the card and check the activity).
There was one large boar that had been making occasional visits, right around dusk, since late Spring. When I shared his pic with the Landowner, his response was “He’s a fair-sized pig…don’t need him around”!
A large boar had been visiting the pond since late Spring...right at dusk
I had made long-term plans to come out and try to take him out.
Well, when the weekend finally rolled around, wouldn’t you know…the temps dropped over 20 degrees! Cloud cover took over, and we even had some decent rainstorms. Murphy’s Law had reared its’ ugly head again…I would have to try to make the best of it.
I looked at the weather report, and it appeared that Saturday Evening had the highest temps, with the lowest winds. I figured it would be my best option.
I parked my rig about 1/2 mile away on the ridge, and made my way around the access road to the pond. I was careful to make a wide circle to the treestand, as not to disturb the trails the pigs typically use to enter the pond. I had a nice gentle Southeast wind, which was perfect for entry. I was hoping it would die down a little or switch, just before dark.
Even with the recent rainfall, the ground had dried out immediately, and the jackrabbits were coming in to drink regularly. I could hear their approach in the dry grass.
I knew I had until a little after 9 PM to shoot, and historically, pigs had always come in right at last shooting light. At 9 PM, I knew it was now or never…when suddenly I heard an animal approaching up on the main entry trail. This was indeed bigger than a jackrabbit…and I was pleased to see the big boar all by himself, trotting up the trail. He entered the pond without hesitation…and began to drink, quartered hard toward me. By this time, I was standing with my bow at the ready. I would have to wait him out before I could draw.
After a short wait, the boar turned broadside, and walked out toward the middle of the pond. I drew immediately, picked my spot, and when he stopped, he was slightly quartered away…perfect. I focused on the position of his far shoulder, picked a spot, and let the string slip from my fingertab. I saw the arrow enter the chest with great penetration, and he took off like a shot directly away from me, and turned in behind some oaks. There was a lot of noise as I was sure I heard him go down, and then…silence!
Even though all the evidence was pretty strong that this pig was ended…I wanted to give him some time to make sure. After about 45 minutes, I gathered my gear, and climbed down to check the site of the hit
After about 45 minutes, I gathered my gear, and climbed down to check the site of the hit
Walking around to the far side of the pond, the first thing I looked for was wet grass to locate his outlet trail. In no time, I found it, spotted with bright red blood. After following it for a few yards behind the nearest oak trees, I saw him lying still in an open spot up ahead…just 50 yards from the hit! He was done!
This is how I found the big boar
I gutted the animal and noticed the chest cavity full of blood. Autopsy revealed that the 125 grain Anarchy Broadhead had taken out both lungs, the aortic arch, and lodged in the far shoulder…a devastating hit!
This was a huge boar, and I knew the only way I could move him is remove the head. He had some very impressive cutters on him!
Cutters were of record size on this pig
I got the cavity propped open, and started jogging back to my rig. I knew I could drive to the pig’s location, and it would save me time cooling him down. I was (barely) able to load him up onto the tailgate, even headless and gutless. I’m guessing he was well over 300 pounds on the hoof.
I had reservations about the quality of the meat, but when I got it all processed, I was very surprised! The loins were amazing marinated and grilled, and I had over 50 pounds of ground pork left over, that I made into breakfast sausage and Italian sausage, both of which came out excellent!
It was a long night getting him hung, skinned, and processed…but worth every ounce of effort. I’m looking forward to getting back out to try my luck again…hopefully this time with my Daughter Holli, who is coming home for a month of Recruiter Assistance Leave.
It was my 15th consecutive year to apply for a Wyoming moose permit…I knew I had a decent chance with 14 preference points, but I thought the same thing the last 3 years. When the letter finally came indicating a successful draw for 2014, I just stared at it for about 5 minutes!
Fast forward about 4 months to late September, 2014, and I am in Southwest Wyoming along the Hams Fork River with both my Sons, Joey and Scott, and long time hunting buddy Jerry.
I spotted 6 bull Shiras moose the 1st 4 days; 2 were dinks, and 3 were mid-30” bulls that I would be pleased to take but I never could quite get a shot. Joey and Jerry had elk tags, and were on the look-out for a moose for me. Scott was tagless, and devoted his time to a moose search.
On day 5, Scott had to return to his office in Fort Collins, Colorado. A mere one hour later, I spotted a cow moose in the river bottom willows, and careful bino work revealed a partial moose antler deeper in the thicket.
I unfurled my Moo Cow decoy from Elk Mountain Gear, walked out to the willow jungle, and started walking parallel to the direction the cow meandered. After about 100 yards, I rounded a big willow bush, and stood face to face at 20 yards to a massive 1,000 pound Shiras moose, who stared intently at my Moo Cow decoy and hardly noticed puny me from his 8′ high vantage point!! I was shocked, scared, amazed…and unable to move!
a re-creation of the author's reaction to seeing the bull prior to the shot (Photo by Joe Wylie)
Finally some muscle control returned to my body and I quickly deposited a 100 grain Thunderhead tipped arrow in the middle of his chest!! Now before you congratulate me on the great shot, understand I had a target about 36” square at 20 yards totally mesmerized by the Moo Cow Decoy…at this point, I had no idea what was still ahead.
I found Joey, and we began to follow a very sparse bloodtrail. We would find sign about every 50 yards and only were able to track it because of his tracks in the damp river bottom earth. Soon the willows became almost inpenatrable as we got closer to the river. After about 3+ hours that only took us about 250 yards….I took a break and waded the river looking for tracks (and blood) in the sandy river bank. Seeing none, I decided that he must not have crossed the Hams Fork. I kneeled down and really implored God to help me find this beast. I stood, walked 15 yards back towards the river and there he was!! Dead in mid stride. Thank you Lord !!
The Author and his Son Joey, with his awesome Shiras bull (Photo by Joe Wylie)
I called Joey over and we both looked in awe at this animal… almost twice the size of an elk sprawled out before us, and 350 very difficult yards from my truck. We explored any possible route for our ATVs or even a horse…..and quickly discovered it was to be on our backs. Jerry showed up and joined us, and we spent the rest of the day cutting and bagging the monster. At one point, after we removed the front shoulder and back ham, we discovered that the 3 of us could not roll him over!! We finally were able to roll him but it was on about the 10th effort. It took till evening to get the bags of meat next to the river for cooling, and we then returned to camp. A Coors light celebration followed by an early “hit the sack” was all we could manage.
The next day was probably the most physically exhausting of my bowhunting career. Jerry was unable to pack heavy loads (He is 71 years old like me), and Joey was having some serious back issues. I would load up my pack frame to about 80 pounds and cross the river, fight through some of the willow thicket, meet Joey and transfer the loaded pack, and he would get it to the truck (he was the only one who could climb the hill to the pickup). 6 trips each took several hours, but we got it done, drove it all to the closest meat locker (2 hour drive each way), and got back to camp too tired to talk, eat, or drink. You cannot imagine the physical difficulty of fighting through heavy thickets with a big load on your back….at times I had to crawl for a ways and then try to find a way to stand up again..alone!!
The big Shiras bull had 6 points on each side and was 41” wide…I was ecstatic about my good fortune. This experience was certainly one of the top 2 or 3 hunts of my life but would I do it again?? I think not!!
Many have asked why the blood trail was so sparse…the arrow went through his lungs, and was buried in the off side ribs with enormous internal damage…..but little external evidence? I just think the very thick skin and the winter coat of hair somehow sealed around the arrow shaft at entry. I thought about preparing the head and hide for a shoulder mount but we quickly concluded that the head/horns/caping hide would weigh about 165 pouinds…a load none of us could handle, and 2 people could not walk out side by side…..so a European mount is being prepared, and is way cheaper !!
If you are ever fortunate enough to hunt moose, be sure to bring along several young friends who “owe” you !!
The Author and his amazing Trophy, after a 15-Year wait (Photo by Joe Wylie)
About the Author:
Joe Wylie resides in Ione, California with his bowhunting Wife of 50 Years, Sharon. They have 2 bowhunter Sons, and 7 Grandchildren. Joe has been bowhunting exclusively since 1971, and has taken moose, elk (Rocky Mountain and Tule), bear, deer, coyotes, bobcat, antelope, turkey, wild hogs (both Island and Mainland), and Island goats and sheep. As a lifetime member of the California Bowmen Hunters (CBH) Big Game Club, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and the Whitney Hill Award in 2009. Joe has many entries in the CBH Record Books, and has held the Office of Legislative Coordinator and VP of Hunting within the State Organization.
Earlier this Season, (around Spring Turkey Season)…I was able to obtain hunting rights to a large parcel of private land West of I-5, between Cottonwood and Red Bluff. This cattle ranch has been in the owners’ Family for many years, and it was being ravaged by pigs.
The Landowner is a highly educated, gracious man, and I soon developed a great rapport with him. He took me around the property, showing me the borders, and filled me in on his knowledge of the pig’s activities. The “hub” of pig activity is a large pond (the only water for nearly a mile), and the owner feared it would soon become a hog wallow.
The pond was a hub for wildlife, and I was quick to take advantage of it
It didn’t take me long to establish a trail cam on the pond, followed soon by a treestand. I was under the impression that the pigs just cruised the perimeter of the pond in the evenings when they came in to drink and wallow; After a couple of sits…I found out I was wrong. There were two points on the pond that were regularly being hit, and the pigs would come in, and quickly move out. During the night, they spent more time in the pond, but during daylight hours it was a “limited attack”. I was starting to realize killing these pigs would not be easy.
Beside the pig activity, there were several nice bucks visiting the pond. The landowner initially had only agreed to let me hunt pigs, but he later told me I would be allowed to take one of the bucks as well. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened this Season (yet).
An unusually high 4 point buck on the ranch, I affectionately named "Radar"
After relocating my stand, I managed to finally kill a young boar, right before I left for my Colorado Archery Elk Hunt. The Landowner was very happy, and kept urging me to return and reduce the pig population, and of course, I gladly obliged soon after I returned.
There was one regular visitor that had managed to elude me several times, a very large solitary boar. His normal protocol was to quietly slip into the pond, drink a good amount of water, then swiftly depart. The last time I saw him…He came in right at dusk, and I passed on a 40 yard shot with him standing in the middle of the pond.
A trailcam shot of the old boar sneaking in after hours!
The Landowner was was pretty sure this boar was responsible for widespread fence damage on the property. I had tried to locate him in the canyons in the daytime on a number of occasions, but was unsuccessful.
On a very quiet, clear October afternoon, I once again climbed up in the stand…hoping for a legal buck or the boar to show up before darkness set in. At around 7 PM, I heard a loud scream (sounded like a wildcat almost) coming from the East. I had a feeling something was about to happen, so I stood up on the stand and waited. I heard footfalls approaching, and soon the large boar appeared, moving in quick bursts and stopping intermittently to munch on acorns that had fallen from the valley oaks. Almost as if choreographed, he stepped out broadside just 20 yards in front of me, and stopped to chew on some acorns.
It was so still and quiet, that the boar heard me draw my bow, and bugged out away from the stand about 10 yards, stopping to look back. Not wanting to pass up a 30 yard quartering away opportunity, I quickly picked my spot, and let the string slip from my tab.
I was rewarded by the satisfying sound of a chest hit…and the boar immediately turned the hit side away, and bugged out straight back East. I saw no arrow sticking out the exit side. I heard him stop once, scrape the ground a little, and then just silence.
One thing was for sure, this was dangerous game, and I wasn’t about to go tracking him too early, without giving him ample time to die. So I opted to give him a full hour before taking up the bloodtrail. I played the sound over and over in my head…and I was almost certain it had to be a solid chest wall impact. I was optimistic…but cautious!
I lowered my gear to the ground, donned my Zebra headlamp, and walked up to the point of impact. The bloodtrail became apparent immediately, and I was able to follow it without diversion for around 200 yards, where the pig lay dead.
"Hogzilla's" days were over!
Knowing I would definitely need to gut him to move him at all, I started field dressing the boar. I noticed my arrow was broke off at the entry wound, and the Anarchy Broadhead was just under the skin, buried in the offside shoulder. The lungs were completely destroyed…yet this animal had managed to go around 200 yards! The thickness of the hide and bones was impressive, and once gutted, it was all I could do to drag the boar within 150 yards of the nearest dirt road.
Fortunately, the terrain allowed me to drive my rig to the boar. The only way I could load him in the truck, was to put his front legs over my shoulders, and lift him up like a “dance partner” (trying to use the best body mechanics I could).
Once I got the pig home, it was a matter of skinning and hoisting him a little at a time, until I was finally able to remove the head and hide (which easily weighed 100 pounds). The carcass without the inside and outside loins (or lower legs) was weighed at 80 pounds. Loin would easily add 20, and I am guessing the guts at 50 lbs. This would put the animal’s live weight somewhere around 250 pounds (or more)!
The hog had freshly wallowed before he came in…so a good hosing down was in order before attempting the hoisting and skinning. His cutters were nearly 2 1/2 inches!
Some nice big cutters on this hog!
I have seen much bigger hogs taken, but this guy was the big Kahuna on this particular ranch (by trail cam record).
I’m anxious to keep trying to reduce the pig population on this ranch, and looking forward to a possible late Season opportunity at one of the bucks in the area.
This is the story of my 2014 solo archery elk hunt, in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness.
If you are a trophy hunter, you will not be impressed with my story; I have always been, and always will be a meat hunter. My Family was raised on elk and venison, and we have come to depend on the harvest over the years. I left Northern California on September 12th with one purpose in mind: killing the first legal elk I could get in bow range.
I had been blessed by my 15 year old Son, with a lovely virus that had become apparent the night before my arrival, my throat felt like it had been freshly sandpapered! This was going to make things interesting…such great timing!
The area I have been hunting for many years now, consists of one main access road running North/South on top of the mountain (10,500 feet elevation), which spurs off to several trailheads on both the East and West sides of the road. My first and foremost plan was to set up a base camp on the East rim, with a “backup plan” of camping at a larger trailhead on the West rim.
I arrived to find wall tent camps at both trailheads (grrrr)! In Colorado, they run a week of muzzleloader hunts during the regular archery season…and I was arriving on day one of muzzy season. There was another trailhead in between the two, on the West side, leading to an area I call “Rodent’s Hole”. This is where I decided to make my base camp.
My base camp at 10,500 feet...home sweet home for possibly 14 days
I quickly set up camp, prepared and organized everything I needed for the following day’s hunt, and decided to hunt the evening down in Rodent’s hole, just to get a “feel” for the area’s activity before I went in hard the next morning.
The trailhead down into "Rodent's Hole"
There is an old wooden treestand about a mile down from base camp, which sits in between a North facing timbered ridge, and a series of benches containing multiple small parks and wallows. The old stands in the area have held up for many years, since wood in the high country does not rot over time, and things dry out so quickly. They are left over from a public land Outfitter, who has long since retired his lease.
These old wooden stands are still surprisingly stable after 20+ years
I set up my SLIP System decoynear the stand, tucked back slightly into the timber…I would need something to bring elk into bow range if I could get a response with calling. I had killed my last bull from the same stand, using the above techniques, several years back.
The Timber Elk Decoy from quartering in
My standard treestand “formula”, is just to give a couple of soft cow calls every 15 minutes or so. This will sometimes bring elk in to “investigate” the new girl in the area. If a bull decides to “call me over to him”…I will oftentimes hit him back with a spike squeal. On several occasions this has resulted in bulls rushing in aggressively, ready to run off the apparent young rival.
My main purpose for the evening, was to assess the presence of vocal bulls for the following morning hunt. I heard one weak bugle way up the dark timber ridge near dusk, and also heard two muzzleloader blasts further down the ridge. I could see I was in for a week of “silent elk”…which always makes archery hunting a real challenge!
Day two I was up early, and headed down to a large meadow below Rodent’s hole, where I had seen a nice 6×6 bull on the last day of my hunt the year before. My plan was to move in on the first vocal bull I hear.
The first light of dawn I heard two bulls exchanging rather weak bugles…and they were already way up in the dark timber! I realized I was not going to catch up to these guys before they bedded their cows down for the day, so I began the long hike up into the dark timber. The lack of vocal elk had forced me to play “hide and seek”…hopefully catching a legal elk bedded down, or moving to or from a high water source.
Looking across the meadow at the dark timbered ridge in early AM
I started low, and slowly worked my way higher as the thermals started to switch, in an effort to keep the wind advantage in my favor. Early afternoon found me near the top, about a mile down the ridge. I had encountered some pockets of fresh elk sign, and finally decided to drop down one of the major elk trails all the way to the creek bottom, where there was another tree stand I know of. It was another old wooden stand, overlooking the creek.
The "creek stand" on the West Side
Just getting a “feel” for the situation, told me I would be doing no calling from this stand. It would be a plain and simple ambush. The elk move from the steep dark timbered ridge where they are bedded in the daytime, and cross the creek and head up the equally steep semi-open South facing ridge to feed in the evenings. The trails converging under the stand are like “elk highways”.
I stowed my SLIP System back behind the tree, and squirted a little estrus urine around the base of the tree before I made the climb. The stand is 30 feet up, and still amazingly sturdy after over 20 years. Once in the tree, I settled in for a long afternoon to evening sit, confident I would at least see or hear elk before dark. I mounted my video camera to a nearby limb, and attached a LANC controller to the seat of the stand, where I could easily activate it if elk came into view.
About 6:30 PM, I saw a flash of movement up the trail ahead of me. I quickly started the video cam…soon realizing it was indeed a lone bull. I grabbed my bow and readied myself for a shot opportunity.
It all happened quickly…the bull came out directly across from the stand, stopped momentarily to assess the wind, and then proceeded to come toward me. Directly below the stand, the bull twisted into a broadside presentation, and my arrow quickly entered his chest behind the shoulder.
The first thing I noticed was incomplete penetration…NOOOO! I knew I must have hit bone somewhere. The bull took off under the stand, turned left and ran straight down the creek bottom for 70 yards, then appeared to jump up the bank slightly, and disappeared around the corner at an angle that would put him back down toward the creek/ dark timber.
Playing the scene back in my head, it appeared there was maybe 10 inches of arrow sticking out of his chest on the near side. I realized this probably meant there was a good chance I had no exit wound. Playing the video back in the camera didn’t help; the viewfinder was too small for me to see my arrow (it wasn’t until I was able to get home and review the video, that I realized the shot was a solid shoulder blade hit, but I still received an amazing amount of penetration).
I felt there was plenty of penetration for the hit to be lethal, but I knew tracking him was going to be difficult.
After about 45 minutes, I lowered my gear and myself down the tree, and started to look for evidence. I was able to follow his jump marks into the creek, but unable to see for certain what happened when he emerged up on the bank downstream. With daylight starting to fade…I knew my only good option was to back out, and try to find the bull the next morning. I began the long hike back to base camp.
After a near sleepless night, first light found me down at the creek bottom, where I did my best to locate the wounded bull. I started back beneath the stand, and was able to find a few small spots of bright red blood on some grass, at the point before the bull jumped into the creek.
First blood near the spot where the bull was hit
By the bull’s actions, it seemed to me he wanted desperately to get back up into the dark timber where he came from. I started doing sidehill sweeps, moving 30 yards or so up the ridge with each successive sweep, for a distance of 500 yards or so each time. I would move slowly, keeping my nose in the wind hoping to locate him by his scent (we have located many bulls in this manner over the years). Later in the day, when the thermals started to rise, I followed the same techniques across the creek on the South face. I was listening for flies and bees swarming, as well as trying to wind him.
After over 9 hours of searching, it became apparent I was probably not going to find this bull. I felt sick inside…I thought I had made a great shot, only to have missed my mark by a couple of inches. Depressed and beaten, I started slowly working my way back to base camp. On arrival, I took a solar shower, organized my gear, and sat down to contemplate the events of the last two days. It was nearing 5 PM, and I had the option to just remain in camp for the evening. Hell no! I came here to hunt. I knew the only way to keep my mind off my failure was to keep going. I grabbed my bow and pack, and started walking with my SLIP System toward Rodent’s Hole. I took a sit in the treestand again, and was rewarded to hear the two bulls I had heard in the morning, way up in the dark timber. I would be back for them in the morning!
I arrived at the meadow way before daylight, and used contours to try to get as far down the mountain in elevation as I could, without blowing the elk out of the country with my scent. I knew I would have to be close to the bulls to intercept the herd, and I hoped they would not move up as early as they had a couple days ago.
Just before shooting light, I heard one of the bulls bugle down below me about 300 yards, and he sounded like a good mature bull. I started to move down toward his position, keeping the wind mostly in my face. Unfortunately, before I could get close to his last known location, he responded again, and was already near the top of the ridge, and there was a smaller bull vocalizing near him as well. So much for best laid plans. I decided to slowly work my way toward the top, in the direction they had went. I hunted the next 6 hours up in the dark timber, stillhunting my way across the mountain, hoping to see any sign of the herd, or other elk that were scattered around up there. An afternoon thunderstorm rolled in about 1 PM, so I took refuge under my SLIP elk decoy.
Taking shelter during a Thunderstorm with the SLIP System
After the storm passed, I sidehilled my way around back to base camp. I had decided it was time to drop off the East rim. Wall tent or no wall tent, I needed to see what was going on down there!
There was another road that came in to the rim from an angle, further down the rim from the wall tent. I parked my rig at the end of that road, and walked the 500 yards to the rim, and dove off. One of the first things I noticed, is that as soon as I got down past the first series of benches, all human bootprints disappeared. Nobody had been down low, which is understandable, given the unforgiving steepness of the long descent. My plan was to go all the way down 1.5 miles to the creek bottom, where another old treestand existed. No better way to assess the elk activity for the evening in my opinion.
I used my calling formula while on stand, and set the decoy back behind me. The stand backs right up to a North facing dark timber ridge, with the creek on the right, and a small meadow out front. The biggest problem with this stand is wind…if the animals come in from directly behind, they almost always bust you because they are at eye level with you, and especially earlier in the evening, your scent blows right up to them. If the animals come down from the right…chances are you will be undetected.
the small park in front of the creek stand, on the East side
About 4:30, I looked behind me to see a young cow elk moving down toward the alders under the stand. Just when I thought she was at a point where she would be under my scent…she suddenly turned and busted out. Damn!
I continued my intermittent calling as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. About 7 PM, my cow call was cut off by a deep, throaty chuckle, just 100 yds behind the stand (telling me, “come here, sweetheart”). Well, gee Mister, I would, but I’m stuck up this tree! So, I hit him back with a spike squeal using just my diaphragm call and my cupped hands. This got an immediate response…he screamed aggressively at me, and then the whole hill exploded behind me. I could hear the herd running down around toward the creek to my right, and they splashed across the creek, and emerged in the meadow at about 50 yds out…one cow, two cows, three cows, and then the bull. I tried to stop them with a nervous bark using my voice…but the virus had taken away my volume, and they did not hear me (thanks, Buddy)! I quickly grabbed my bite and blow call, and was able to stop the bull at 80 yards as he looked back at me over his massive rump. And what a bull he was…a solid 290 bull by my estimation…but with only 3 cows! I would love to meet the reason this bull had only 3 cows!
He bugled at me once, and pushed his cows over the knob. In less than a minute, he already had run his cows clear up to the upper benches, and had taken refuge in the dark timber. There was a smaller satellite bull having a vocal exchange with him, and I decided since I had a steady downhill wind, I would climb down and try to get to them before it got dark.
By the time I reached the bulls, they were both sounding off in my direction, and I was mocking them with my bugle. Unfortunately…I was quickly running out of shooting light. I knew the best tact would be to run away into the wind…leaving the chance open for another encounter on a different day. I began the steep hump back to the rim.
Due to the lay of the land, dropping off the East rim in the mornings was usually a bust. The wind slides predictably down, clearing out every elk scattered across the South face before you could get anywhere near them. For this reason, I decided to leave the East rim for the evening hunt, and went back below the meadow on the West side, just before daylight.
Predictably, I heard the smaller bull way up in the dark timber at first good shooting light. I started working my way toward his position. I tried to locate him again with my bugle, but got nothing! Another lovely day of hunting silent bulls!
hunting silent bulls in the timber can be a fruitless game!
I slowly stillhunted my way back toward the creek stand where I had stuck the bull 3 days earlier. I couldn’t get that animal out of my head, and I was sure I could either smell him by now if he was in the area, or I would hear ravens that would be feeding on his carcass if he was down. I was very ready to punch my tag and go home if I could find him, even though my family would not be provided with food. I felt obligated to take another look for him.
Distracted by thoughts of the bull, I bumped a herd of elk out of their beds at just 20 yds. Pay attention, stupid! A few more yards of following their tracks led me to a large ravine which I recognized right away…this was where I had backtrailed the bull from the stand. I felt he might have wanted to return to his bedding area, so I followed the trail up to see where he had come from.
I continued to follow the fresh elk tracks to see where they had gone, I wanted to know where elk would go that felt “safe” if pressured. After sidehilling my way mid-ridge, I started to see fresh tracks everywhere, moving toward a large, very steep dark timber patch. With all the fresh sign in the area, and it being mid-morning…I decided it would be a good time to set up a “cold calling scenario”. I set up the decoy facing the steep dark timber ridge, and began a series of vocalizations to include all manner of cow calls and some single-note bugles, and began breaking branches intermittently.
This steep dark timber pocket had many torn up trails heading into it
After an hour or so, I decided it was time to move on. Even though I got no responses, I would definitely keep this place in mind for future hunts.
I worked my way back toward the creek stand, and dropped down in there once again, sniffing the wind and listening for flies/ bees/ ravens, etc. Nothing at all! Finally, I moved up the South Face toward what I knew were a series of good game trails that would get me back to base camp. After a few hundred yards, a lone bull gave off a “location bugle” across the ravine in the North-facing timber. We began an exchange that lasted about ten minutes or so…and I can honestly say, I got the last word in! My thoughts were that he had moved his cows down to a wallow or water source located mid-ridge, and I could clearly hear him move them back up and over the top at the end of our “conversation”. I headed back to base camp, with an evening plan in mind.
I had a "conversation" with a bull across on the far ridge
In the early afternoon…I dove off the East rim again, headed down to the point where I had the exchange with the two bulls the evening before. There was actually another tree stand down there, within 100 yards of where I had been having the bugle exchange. I call it the “point stand”…because it sits near the top of a dark timber ridge where bedded bulls often reside, but is also a natural “funnel” for any elk coming from the creek down below. The view from the point is pretty spectacular, and you can hear any bull for miles. I climbed in the stand, and started my intermittent calling.
looking down toward the river from the "point stand"
About 6 PM, I started hearing distant bugles. Finally at about 7 PM, there were three different bulls sounding off down below me about 400 yards away. One was a squealer, one sounded like “Chuckles” from the night before…and then there was a “growler”! There was the the reason “Chuckles” only had 3 cows! I so wanted to meet this guy…but the wind was blowing right down his direction. I began to unravel a desperate plan for the next morning.
In complete darkness…I dove off the East rim the next morning. If I could use the dark timber ridge off the point to hold my scent…maybe I could drop down level with the 3 bugling bulls, and then move in to intercept them.
Well, I got one ridge too far back somehow…and early light found me desperately working frantically to get off a steep ridge littered with blowdowns, snags, deep brush laden ravines, and more hazards than I ever wanted to imagine. I could clearly hear two of the bulls sounding off across the open South benches (no sign of the “growler”).
a typical blowdown scenario, I've become a master at navigating it!
Finally, I could see an open park through the timber…and as I wormed my way up and over the last blowdown and twisted through a dead snag…5 elk trotted into view at 40 yards in the park ahead. I immediately popped the decoy, and had a nice big cow staring me down, beautifully broadside. As I went to draw my bow, I realized my arm was stuck in the snag, and this was not going to happen. The elk bounded away, and I was left looking stupid!
At this point, the only bull I could intermittently hear was the little squealer. I would try to get up under him to maintain the wind advantage, and see if I could get a look at him.
Soon after my ascent on to the steep dark timber ridge, the bull went silent. Winds were getting swirly, so I laid low for a while, then slowly started to gain in elevation as the winds began to shift uphill. Soon after I reached the top of the mountain, I heard a lazy “location” bugle below. It was the “squealer”… and he was in his bed. I checked the wind…coming right up to me! I’m coming for you, dude!
My hope was to move as quietly as possible down to his level, hopefully to around 100 yards or so of him. As soon as I got to where I thought I was very close…the bull suddenly bugled directly below me, less than 100 yds away, and then I heard limbs pop. I checked the wind…and it was blowing straight down to him…NOOOO! I couldn’t believe it, it was 11:30 AM, and the wind had completely shifted on me. Granted, if I had not misjudged my position, I may have had a chance at the bull.
I figured the only thing I could do at this point was take a nap. Turns out I must have been tired; I managed to sleep for a couple hours under my “elk decoy umbrella” in a little depression I found. You hear of bowhunters doing ten mile days in elk country, well, this was turning out to be one of them.
After I woke up, I headed sidehill down toward the creek stand. Maybe I could get another look at “Chuckles” if he decided to follow the same routine as two nights ago. Turns out, the wind was not my friend that day/evening. One minute it would be blowing up, then down. I had never seen the winds so shifty down there!
About 7PM, “Chuckles” answered my calls again…but this time he was one finger over from me, and came up near the wallows on the lower bench. After a short exchange, he sounded off again clear up on the top! How do you kill a bull that runs his cows from one location to the next! Oh yeah, that’s probably how he got so big in the first place!
one of the wallows above the creek stand on the east side
I decided to try to catch him anyway. I was pouring sweat by the time I got up to the point, and the bull was nowhere to be found. With darkness coming on, I slowly made my way (defeated), back up to the rim.
I was feeling pretty beaten up when my alarm clock went off at 4 AM. Yesterday had been a very rough day. I decided to sleep in an extra hour, and head over to another area I knew of, where we had watched a nice bull walk into a fresh wallow one morning last Season.
I got to the wallow at first shooting light. It had been used within a week or so, but really didn’t impress me. There were a series of benches on this ridge, with lots of waterholes and wallows, meadows, etc. I started moving down the drainages and looking for a freshly hit wallow.
This wallow had definitely had some recent activity
After a couple hours, I finally found a pretty good wallow, that appeared to have been hit within the last 24 hours. I decided I would sit out the morning there, and attempt an ambush. I switched the cover on my SLIP System to camo, and set up a makeshift “ground blind”. I would have plenty of cover to draw my bow if needed…and I was within 25 yards of the wallow. I tried to locate myself so my wind was blowing away from the dark timber patch where I expected a bull might approach from.
the SLIP System provides a quick and easy ground blind for ambush
The virus had me so congested at this point, it was near impossible to maintain silence. I felt if I had to stifle another sneeze, they would find me with my brains exploded all over the nearest log!
About 11 AM, I heard two muzzleloader shots in succession, “BOOM………BOOM”! They had come from what sounded like less than 400 yds away, down the ridge in the dark timber. Now I realized why I hated hunting over in this area; there were several good horse trails that provided easy access to hunters, and there seemed to be less elk in general.
I gave it until Noon, then walked back out to the rim.
As I walked out, I started thinking about the elk I had bumped the other day near the creek stand. I had left my stink all over that ridge two days earlier, for 1000 yards in any direction, and those elk were still bedded right above the stand! I made the decision to go back into the creek stand that evening.
Back at camp, I took another solar shower, put on fresh clothes, and sprayed myself and my gear top to bottom with a scent killer spray. I wanted to take absolutely no chances of getting winded tonight. I finally crawled up into the treestand about 3:30 PM. There would be no calling, and no filming this time. I was hoping to maybe get lucky and take a cow. I had made it a point to wear my lucky hat as well!
At around 4:30 PM, I was shocked to see movement up the trail. It was not only an elk, it was another lone bull!
“Oh my God” I thought, “I cannot believe I am getting a second chance”! I could feel my heart pound in my chest as the bull approached my position, but he was slowly feeding his way down, so I had time to get my breathing under control.
When the bull stepped out into the small clearing in front of the stand, I immediately assessed that he was legal, and drew my bow in anticipation of the shot. As he approached closer and closer, it became very clear he was not going to give me a broadside shot opportunity, and I began desperately searching for a way to get the arrow through his vitals. Finally as he started to pass almost straight under my position, I focused on a small spot where the neck meets the shoulder, and I felt the string slip from my finger tab.
THUMP! I could see the arrow embedded in front of the bulls’ shoulder, buried to mid-fletching. I watched the bull clear the creek, and head directly to the semi-open South face across from the stand. I gave a loud cow call…and he stopped and looked back at me for maybe 10 seconds. Then, he slowly started to sidehill up the South ridge, until he disappeared behind an aspen tree. He never emerged…and there was silence! My bull was down, I was sure of it!
My bull was just behind the aspen tree on the ridge, he had not emerged
I started to tremble with excitement. I could not believe I had been given another opportunity, from the same tree stand! Given the circumstances 5 days earlier, I gave the bull a full hour before attempting to take up the blood trail.
Following the blood trail did not require the skills of an Indian Scout! The 125 grain Anarchy Broadhead had pulled the arrow clear through the animal, cutting the aorta and great vessels above the heart!
The entry wound on the upper forward aspect of the left shoulder
the Anarchy Broadhead exited under the opposite "armpit"
Less than 100 yds from where I shot him, I rounded a corner through the brush, to see my bull in his final resting place!
my first view of the bull in his final resting place
I immediately dropped to my knees, and gave a prayer of thanks! Then, I contacted my Family using my Delorme Inreach to tell them the good news (God and Family first)!
I then took a few pictures, and started a short video citing the merits of using panty hose for game bags ( a trick I had come up with many years ago).
I finally returned to camp after a long night, with my elk safely quartered and hung down in the shade by the creek. My hunt was finally over, and I would be bringing home some fine table fare for my Family!
Getting this animal two miles back up to my base camp required one long night, and two days worth of work…five loads in all. One round trip with a back ham took around 3 hours and 45 minutes. But, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
I always manage to keep my camera in my pocket…so here are a few images I managed to take during that time:
use "baby steps" when packing out meat...you'll get there someday!
A male goshawk I encountered while packing meat out
stopped these juvenile delinquents for photo-op (got my bark back)!
on my 4th trip out, this cow offered me a perfect 30 yard broadside shot!
The aspen gold was just starting, but there were some "overachievers"!
some of Mother Nature's artwork is truly amazing!
About halfway up the mountain with the last heavy load, the sky became overcast, and a light rain started to fall. This was a very welcome blessing to a tired old man!
I felt physically beaten down, but Spiritually renewed! As I hit the road for home, I said another prayer of thanks for the opportunity to experience the healing of the High Country again.
I’ve been bowhunting for around 40 years now, and I have a lot of big game under my belt to include blacktails, muleys, bear, and elk. But, one animal has eluded me over the years…the wild pig.
Granted, I’ve never really had the opportunity to hunt pigs in a quality environment, since most of them are located on select parcels of private land here in Northern California. In February, I did have a two day treestand hunt for pigs in South Carolina with Mossy Oak Prostaffer Kenny Hollingsworth, and my Daughter, who had just become a U.S. Marine. We had no shot opportunities on pigs on that hunt.
In the Spring of this year, I was fortunate to meet a landowner who had a problem with wild pigs tearing up fences, rooting up the ground, and polluting his pond. I met with him on the property, and he gave me the grand tour. He had been monitoring the pond with a trail cam, and he indeed had pigs coming in on a semi-regular basis. I signed an agreement with him for the right to hunt, and set to work immediately putting up a treestand, and a trail cam of my own.
A rare CoyWolf caught on my trail cam
After several uneventful evening sits on stand, the pigs finally came in one evening, but on the wrong end of the pond. They made a lot of noise coming in…mostly blowing mixed with grunts. It became apparent I needed to move my stand.
As Summer arrived, the visits became more an more frequent on trail cam. But, it seemed they would come in either at night, or in the late evening for a couple days, then disappear.
August arrived, and I finally was able to pattern a group of pigs coming in every evening just before dusk. I had a good feeling I was finally going to get some action.
An afternoon sit, with the pond in the background
The pigs arrived at last light…and came into the pond like a freight train. They blew past the spot I was hoping for a shot opportunity, and began to wallow. I waited for one of the larger pigs to enter an opening down through some oak limbs. I heard the unmistakeable sound of a solid hit, and the pigs bugged out.
After waiting an hour, I climbed down, popped on my headlamp, and started blood trailing. The trail was very sparse, and I ended up marking the last spot of blood with an arrow, and coming back the next morning to try to pick up the trail.
The blood trail gradually improved, which gave me some encouragement; however, I had now tracked the pig for almost 400 yards, and the character of the blood did not indicate a lung or chest hit. The last blood I found was a good sized pool, overlooking the rim of a dry canyon. After crawling around on my hands and knees and trying to pick up the blood trail again, I decided to drop into the canyon and see if I could find the pig, or any clues at all.
The last blood I found, on the rim of the canyon
By the time I dropped into the canyon, it was ridiculously hot, way up in the mid 90s. When I got to certain sections of the bottom, I noticed a nice drop in temperature. It was in one of these shady spots that I had my next encounter
I was slowly making my way down the edge of the ravine in the canyon bottom, when suddenly I noticed movement just ahead…piglets!
I then saw an adult hog sitting like a dog, with its back to a cut bank. I dropped down, drew my bow, and raised back up to take what would have been a 15 yard shot. Unfortunately, the sow bugged out before I could get the shot off…and the piglets followed.
Dehydrated and frustrated, I made my way back out of the canyon. It seemed my pig curse continued. I can count the number of animals I’ve wounded and lost over the years on one hand…and this pig had just included my pinky finger! I can only guess I stuck solid shoulder blade, and hopefully the pig survived.
Not willing to quit, I kept monitoring the pond for pig activity, and as the dry weather continued, the visits became more regular again. On Labor Day Weekend, I decided to give the pond another try.
Evening pig visits became regular as Summer progressed
Around 8 PM, I heard the pigs coming in. I had my video camera mounted on a limb, so I started it, and grabbed my bow in anticipation of a shot. I told myself I would wait for the perfect opportunity to draw this time, and I hoped the pigs would settle in and get comfortable…they didn’t! One of the big sows sniffed my tree (I had move the stand earlier in the day)..and they bugged out after about 30 seconds in the pond. My hesitation had cost me a shot opportunity (you can see in the video that I had a brief broadside opportunity on the far pig)
One thing I have learned about pigs…they are always moving, unlike deer that move and stop frequently. So if in an ambush situation, you must either be prepared for a quick shot, or attempt to stop the pig with a grunt or other sound.
I decided to give the pond a day off, and sit it again two nights later. My persistence paid off, and I heard a group of pigs approaching from the South, right as the last bit of light began to fade.
To my dismay, they avoided my end of the pond, and came out about 40 yards behind the stand. Though I had a lane, my failure on the first pig made me hesitant to take such a long shot. Then I heard something crunching the grass, coming from uphill on my right. To my delight, a young boar cruised out of the brush and gave me a great 30 yard quartering away shot, and without hesitation, I let fly.
My immediate reaction to the sound of the hit was “Oh God, that pig is dead”! I watched the pig head up the East trail, and then soon after heard him rolling and grunting in the brush at the top of the hill. I decided to give him 30 minutes before I climbed down to take the blood trail
It was obvious the bloodtrail would have a happy ending
The bloodtrail was like a highway stripe…and in less than 50 yards from the point of impact, I found the boar dead and down. My arrow was intact with the Anarchy Broadhead blade down, and sticking up vertically in a bush a couple feet away, completed coated in bright red arterial blood…indicating a near pass through. The curse was lifted, I was one happy camper!
pig and arrow were found together...50 yds from the hit
The Anarchy Blade made short work of this hog, cutting the big vessels right above the heart. The arrow entered through the meat of the left shoulder, and came out between the far shoulder and the neck. And that was shooting an Elite Compound set at 60 pounds, with a heavy Easton Gamegetter aluminum arrow. So far, I am very impressed with the penetration aspect of Anarchy broadheads on big game, as well as the tissue damage they incur due to their twisting action when they enter the animal.
The exit wound from the Anarchy Broadhead was devastating!
A quick easy pack to the road, and my pig was on ice in less than 30 minutes. It was a healthy young boar, about 100 pounds, and I got some beautiful pork loins, pork ribs, and about 20 pounds of ground meat out of him. I was truly blessed.
Bare bow, with fingers, 30 yds. Entry wound is in center of shoulder
Next adventure…my upcoming Colorado Archery Elk hunt. Stay tuned!
Public land archery elk encounters can be few and far between. Sometimes there are days on end of nothing but silence. It sometimes takes all you have, to talk yourself into hammering your legs and body one more time, to get yourself into elk infested areas. Needless to say, every encounter is gold, and you want to take every precaution there is not to screw it up.
In reflecting on last Season, we had several encounters that we should have easily capitalized on, but we ended up eating tag soup.
Each situation had its own reason for failure, but one of the most common themes was TOO MUCH MOTION ! The words “Don’t move” do not translate to “start messing with your video camera”.
In the above video, we had a textbook situation. We used the proper wind to approach the bull on his level. Got within 80 yards, and set up the decoy. I then instructed the shooter to move ahead, using the nearest available cover to shield his approach.
In the video, the bull fires off when he hears commotion, and you can hear me echo him with a challenge bugle followed by some excited chuckles. Then, I start breaking some limbs and raking a spruce, and give some soft cow calls facing away from the bull.
The bull, though he can’t be seen in the video, is a mere 12 yards from the shooter on the other side of the spruce trees at that point, and was moving in quickly as Kenny draws his bow.
Somewhere along the line, the bull hangs up. You can tell by the camera that there is continued motion by the cameraman, during the bull’s approach. The ideal setup would have been to have the cameraman back toward me, nowhere near the shooter. I still feel that bull would have cleared the trees enough to sight the decoy, and it would have been all over.
A good bull I encountered on Public Land in Colorado, 2013
I have had some very close elk encounters over the years…one cow was a mere 3 feet from me when she finally got my wind, and another bull walked by me at less than 10 feet once, with nothing between us. It has nothing to do with camo in my opinion, the secret is lack of motion. In both those encounters, I was frozen like a statue, and I was undetected by the elk.
In the aforementioned encounter with the bull, I had failed to draw my bow on a frontal approach, due to lack to trees or cover in between the bull and myself. I figured I could just freeze, let the bull walk by, draw my bow once he got past me, and take a quartering away shot…WRONG! The bull was well past me when I finally moved to simultaneously pivot and draw…and as soon as I moved, that bull bugged out! Up to that point, I had been completely undetected.
Sometimes, you can beat the odds with trickery. On another encounter last Season, I bumped a bull out of his bed at 20 yards. Thinking quickly, I let a “nervous bark”, a call I make with my voice by sucking air quickly. The bull immediately stopped, quartering away and looking back, at 40 yards. This would have been an amazing opportunity…except for the fact that there was a spruce tree right between me and the bull’s vitals. After surveying the situation for a few seconds, the bull calmly walked off into the timber, never to be seen again.
Knowing when to draw on an approaching bull is truly an art. The guys that have it down kill elk consistently each Season. Once drawn and stationary, you will be amazed at just how undetected you are by elk. Being still in an elk encounter should always be one of your primary objectives.
This story is about the accomplishments of a young woman who happens to be a huntress, and my Daughter. As a Proud Father, I feel a need to share it, so please bear with me.
My Wife and I returned a couple weeks ago from Parris Island, South Carolina, where we had the privelege of seeing our daughter Holli graduate from Marine Basic Training.
We arrived very early in the AM, and we were able to grab about 3 hours sleep before the Batallion did a run-by on the street. We were unable to pick her out in her platoon…they all looked like dudes!
Then, a few hours later, we watched them march into the large indoor facility in formation, and after a short ceremony, they finally released her to us for a few hours. I swear she grew two inches (posture is everything)!
Everywhere we went, it was “Yes, Sir…No, Maam, How are You Today, Sir”…what a transformation! From a child to a respectful adult, in just 13 weeks!
After hanging out with us for a few hours, we had to give her back. We watched them in formation as they did a rehearsal drill on the parade field. The snap and focus was quite impressive! Who’s kid is that???
Next Day was the formal Graduation Ceremony. Just so impressive all the way around, every platoon was tight and snappy! Finally, we were able to get her for 10 days!
Instead of going straight home…we headed up into Northern SC to a buddy’s hunting lease. The only rental car available when we got there was a Suburban…here’s a pic of my Wife driving “the Beast”!
Got there just in time for a night pig hunt from some baited stands (I brought our bows/ arrows from California, and I had made some 200 lumen red lights for our stabilizers). It was all of 18 degrees… a miserable four hour sit with just a couple of corn stealing coons showing up the first night…but my daughter toughed it out with me.
When we met at the trailhead, I was whining and jumping around like a little pup…she just stood there swaggering and laughing at me! (I remember not long ago when the shoe would have been on the other foot)!
Turns out these pigs were leading a charmed life. We went in the next day to check the cornpiles, and the ground was littered with pig tracks. They had eaten hundreds of pounds of corn over the last month, but they avoided the cornpile with the trail cam on it!
Pigs were a no show the second night…but I got to see a herd of Whitetail come into bow range right before dusk, with two bucks in tow. An awesome experience for me, having only hunted out West!
We finished off our trip with the rifle range the next morning, my daughter got to show off her skills with my buddy’s AR…she was like a kid in a candy store!
Holli is not just any chick Marine…she has a very specialized skillset…she will be attending the Navy School of Music to become a Marine Musician.
We flew her home with us to NorCal. She had several things she wanted to cross off her bucket list on her 10 Day leave…a quick trip to L.A. to see Family, and a drop-in soccer game on Super Bowl Sunday when she got back to Redding.
And of course…music!
She was able to join in a performance with the Shasta College Jazz Band
Holli told me that backcountry hunting really helped her get through basic. The qualifying march with the 60 pound pack was killer for some of those girls.
Holli told me “they do not know how to wear their packs correctly”, and “this was nothing compared to the hikes we did, Dad…it’s all flat ground out here”!
Out of 88 recruits in Holli’s platoon…only 55 were able to complete Basic
So, Holli flew back to Camp Geiger in North Carolina yesterday.
Now comes the really amazing part of the story:
She not only got through Marine Basic…she beasted it!
She qualified for an experimental program, where girls are attempting to complete Infantry Training. So far, 88 girls have tried, and only 18 have successfully made it through.
We initially tried to talk her out of this, because we feared it would interfere with her Music School. But, it appears to have been run up the chain, and the music school is backing her 100%. She will be the first Marine Musician to attempt this training, male or female. So win or lose, she has already made History!
She volunteered for this because she truly believes Women should be allowed to fight. I told her “never volunteer for anything”…you can see how well she listens to me
There are 7 tough young ladies there including Holli, I pray every day that they draw strength from eachother, and kick this thing’s butt!
Sorry for the long rant, I’m just so pumped up about my little girl. Thanks for reading!
Opening day of the season found my dad and I high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains surrounded by thick, dark timber and a bachelor group of at least 6 quiet, but very curious bull elk. We deployed the Slip System with the Timber Elk slip attached, and began sending out a series of cow calls. The bulls would circle around us through the timber, and on a couple of occasions, one of them would sneak in towards the decoy but wouldn’t quite give us a shot opportunity.
At one point I had a small 5×5 coming right at the decoy and heading towards a perfect shooting lane. When he was 10 yards away, he made a sudden turn to my left, forcing me to turn as well, as he went behind a tree. I started to draw but only made it half way when he stepped out from behind the tree and busted me at 5 yards. He turned and ran down through the timber about 20 yards before I stopped him with a hard bugle. At this point, they were done playing, and soon they all disappeared into the trees, never to be heard or seen again. It was this first experience with the Slip that I knew they had seen it and it appealed to their curiosity.
We didn’t hunt again until the last week of the season, which was the week we were really looking forward to this year. It was a wet, snowy day as we set out around 10 AM for an area we thought may hold some elk, once the weather we had been experiencing started to clear. At about 11 AM and a mile into our hike, the bulls began to bugle nonstop. As they were on the opposite side of a river we had been paralleling, we had to find a good place to cross and stay downwind from them at the same time. After what seemed like a never ending search for a good place to cross, we were able to make it to the other side and worked our way up a steep hill to hopefully gain an advantage on their position.
Once at the top, we waited and listened for them to talk. Immediately, one of the bulls let out a bugle in the timber below us, so we cautiously made our way down the opposite side of the mountain we had just climbed. The “Trekking Pole” aspect of the Slip System saved my butt numerous times coming down the other side of that mountain. I have never felt as confident coming down such a steep incline as I did that day. It was like having a 3rd leg to stand on as I moved downhill!
When we reached the bottom, we set up in a Caller/Decoy/Shooter configuration with me being about 40 yards in front of the decoy and dad 40 yards behind doing the calling. Our first series of calls found the elk to be further down the mountain than we originally thought, so we quickly picked up the decoy and made our way another 200-300 yards down through the trees where we would set up and begin calling again. We were getting closer, but still needed to make up some more distance, so we repeated our move 2 more times until we were finally on top of them. Things were really heating up now!
At dad’s first bugle, we received a challenge down and to our left not more than 70 to 80 yards away. There was a small knoll between us and the elk, so I kept a close eye to the left with that being the direction the bugle had come from. It wasn’t too long before I caught some movement to my right, coming from the opposite side of the knoll. As I looked a little closer, I realized it was a good bull coming silently right to our position. I turned my body to the right, hoping he wouldn’t catch my movement, and got ready for the shot. There was a large opening to my right of which I was totally exposed to. The bull walked up just shy of this opening and stopped 18 yards away to smell the ground. He then looked past me in the direction of the decoy and began to move towards it, taking 3 more steps and stopping dead in the middle of the opening. I knew it was now or never!
As I came to full draw, the bull knew something was not right as I was in plain view! No sooner did I pull the string back to my cheek, dad let out a bugle that turned the bull’s attention momentarily towards the decoy. As I released the arrow, the bull lunged forward and to his left. My first thought was that I had hit him too far back when he jumped, but as he ran away from me, I could see the back end of the arrow sticking out towards the back of his ribcage and angling forward towards the off side shoulder. I let out a bugle with my diaphragm and he slowed up at about 40 yards away, stopped for a moment, and then slowly walked over a rise in the trees until he disappeared. My heart was pounding from the series of events that had just transpired!
I quickly gained my composure and pulled out my GPS to mark the area I had hit the bull. I also tied some surveyor’s tape to a couple of trees for an easy visual indicator. The bull had tore up the ground around him when he jumped, so I followed his tracks for a few feet and found blood within 5 yards of where he was hit. Not totally confident of the shot, I gathered my things and headed towards dad and the decoy. When I got there, he asked me what had just happened, as he only heard the commotion and didn’t actually see the bull come in. I told him I had just put an arrow in a good bull. The look on his face was priceless! After a heartbreaking miss a couple of years before, and too many close calls to even count, I had finally put what appeared to be a fatal arrow into a bull with my recurve!
He wanted to see for himself the spot where it had all taken place, so we walked back over and followed the bull’s trail for about 25 yards. There was enough blood on the ground for us to pick it up easily, but we decided that since sunset was quickly coming upon us, it would be better to come back in the morning and trail him then. The temperature that night would get down into the upper teens, so we didn’t have much of a worry about the animal spoiling. We felt it was best to leave him over night.
Early the next morning, after not much sleep of course, we made our way back up the trail. We were within 500 yards of our destination when the elk began bugling again in the same spot they were in the day before. I knew this would bode well for us as we had not spooked anything out of the area with what had happened the previous day. We finally made it to the spot where I had hit the bull and began following a fairly good blood trail. The snow that had fallen 2 nights before really helped out. We were about 80 yards into tracking when the snow disappeared and the trail became harder to see. I found a set of tracks that went left, which I decided to follow, while dad continued straight ahead. We were both about 30 yards from where we had split up when I heard a whistle from my right. It was dad, and he was signaling me towards him.
I quickly made my way over to him, where he pointed to a tan object laying on the hillside not more than 60 yards away. I pulled out my binoculars and confirmed the obvious. It was my bull! He had only made it 176 yards from where I had taken the shot. A feeling of relief and great pride ran through my body. We swiftly made our way towards him, shaking hands and smiling ear to ear knowing that all of the hard work we had put in over the last few years had finally paid off.
William Shafar's Awesome Colorado Bull, DIY, Public Land, 2013
After a long session of picture taking, high fives, hugs, and re-telling the story as it happened the day before, we got to work on breaking the bull down and packing him out to the truck. That is a whole other story in itself, but I will say there are 4 good ole boys from Missouri out there that I am forever grateful to for helping us get that bull back to the trailhead!
As far as the performance of the Slip System, I would have to say it exceeded all of my expectations during this year’s elk hunt. I can honestly say that using it as cover and shelter, and from trekking to decoying, it was put to the test and I firmly believe it played a major role in my success this year! I look forward to using your product for many years to come!
Chad Christie and his heavy-beamed 5x5 Roosevelt Bull
The sound of a bull’s echo in the distance (1500 yards to be exact), starts the adrenaline that warms you up on a still, brisk early morning trek in TrinityCounty. “Do we pursue or do we wait”? I asked the hunter. The hunter, Chad, and his father, Darrel (Buzz) Christie, consult quickly and decide; let’s do it!
The hike alone would take us quite a bit; down a steep canyon through the bottom, back up, through a draw or two, and down to the bottom of a big brushy hillside where we would then begin our climb. The outfitter, Mike Haigh of H&M Outfitters, stayed behind with Darrel, as Chad and I began our pursuit up the hillside to the ridge where we knew the bull was waiting. When we got to the top we waited a minute to take back our breath from the steep climb to the ridge top. I then let out a soft estrus whine; not just one, but three bulls piped their notes…the breath that we had taken back left us again!
Before I continue let me explain … I have this walking stick that everyone pokes fun at, because it’s actually an umbrella, with a picture of a buck on it. I use it as concealment or blind. This umbrella was made and patented by Cory Gabrielson and Jeff Ervin of Elk Mountain Gear Inc.
So I opened up the umbrella and we hid behind it in the wide open. As soon as I called, we were soon being stared at by a monster cow elk at 20 yards for what seemed an eternity; she soon lost interest and went on her way. Now the hunter and I (close to hyperventilating) had to calm down for the bull, because he was near, we could see his rack over the buck brush.
With all of this excitement, the cow began walking toward us; she was now at 15 yards and closing. We looked up the ridge to an opening where the bull was headed and got ready for the bulls’ demise. I told the hunter, Chad, that I would cow call in order to get the bull to stop so Chad could shoot him. The bull continued to the opening, I cow called and he stopped at 40 yards. The rest is history; the bull made it to about 50 yards before he met his fate.
Gabe Forrister (left), and Chad with his awesome Northern California Trophy Bull
This will be one my best hunts ever, and will always be remembered. For me the hunt is all about the experience in God’s creation, and to have the memories of a job well done.
I felt like the elk could hear our knees knocking and our heavy anxious breathing, but what the elk couldn’t see was the two guys behind an umbrella. Without this easy pop-out walking stick umbrella we would have probably gone home to eat tag soup. So big congratulations to Chad Christie and a big thanks to Elk Mountain Gear Inc. for allowing us to use this amazing product, it saved our stomachs and our butts!
Gabe Forrister is an experienced elk hunter and guide currently living in Trinity County. You can contact Gabe, and Mike from H&M Outfitters, at the numbers below:
H&M Outfitters: Mike Haigh: (530)917-0631
Guide (Caller & Writer) Gabe Forrister: (530)227-8608
On a cloudy Friday night, I picked up Kenny and Scott from Grand Junction Airport. We were all very excited about our upcoming adventure in Colorado’s White River National Forest, and after a restless night, we hit the road for the High Country. With heavy packs, we descended from the 10, 500 foot rim down a mile and a half to what would be “Home Sweet Home” for a week. Nothing better than being camped in the middle of elk country!
Looking off the rim (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Kenny and Scott would be trying to collect video for Reel Shot TV during our 7 day hunt. Our First evening, we watched a bugling bull from across a big canyon. The next morning, we were on a a screaming bull first thing, and decoyed/ called him in to 15 yards. Unfortunately, Kenny couldn’t get a shot through the trees, but we got some great footage for Reel Shot. “Wow, that was easy”! I thought. Well, maybe not!
The bulls soon shut down their vocal activity, and we had one of the toughest weeks of archery elk hunting I’ve ever experienced. We did manage to get some great footage, but it was with a heavy heart after 7 days that we packed out without putting an elk on the ground. I shot back to Grand Junction Airport, said my goodbyes to Kenny and Scott, and turned around and zipped back to the elk woods. I would have four days to try to kill my elk.
A bull we encountered on day 6 (Photo by Scott Ferguson)
Since the vocal activity had shut down in the drainage, I had packed everything out but my tent and sleeping pad. My plan was to keep that option open in case the bulls decided to light up again, but in the meantime, I would remain mobile and try different areas I knew of.
I jammed back up to a trailhead where we had seen a nice 6×6 bull come into a wallow. My first order of business was to slam my left index finger in the truck door! Oh well, elk hunting is about pain…I was just starting the pain early.
truck door vs finger (photo by Jeff Ervin)
It was hard to tell if the wallow had been used that day, but it had definitely been hit regularly. Temps had dropped, and it looked like rain clouds in the distance. Not exactly the best evening to sit a wallow, but with no bugling from the bulls, I really didn’t have a choice.
We had seen a great 6x6 bull at this wallow (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I set up my SLIP System as a camo blind, on the leeward side of the wallow. I would have about a 30 yard shot if the bull came in.
My blind from the wallow (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
After about an hour, it started to rain. I quickly reconfigured the blind as a shelter.
SLIP System was used as a rain shelter often (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Rain soon turned to sleet, and then full blown snow. I knew it was pointless to sit the wallow under these conditions, so I figured I would go into the dark timber and look for elk. Knowing it would be sketchy trying to move over the jumbled maze of deadfall (now slick with snow), I reassembled my SLIP Blind into a trekking pole to help with stability.
The scene changed rapidly that evening (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I was ultimately looking for the bull’s bedding area, but since snow had now covered all fresh tracks, it had simply turned into a game of “hide and seek”. I tried both cow calling and bugling, but after I got no response, I knew it was time to start the long slow process of making my way back to the rim, through the ever-increasing wet heavy snow.
Finally back at the truck (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I decided I would shoot back up to the main trailhead for my next morning hunt. Driving up to the rim was pretty hairy, but I managed to slip and slide my way to the top.
The next morning was clear, with a blanket of fresh snow. Locator bugles produced nothing, so I decided to follow the first set of good fresh elk tracks I could find.
It was a beautiful, silent morning (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
About 1/3 of the way down the trail, I found what I was looking for, some good bull tracks, a solo animal.
I followed these bull tracks for nearly two miles (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I followed the bull for nearly two miles. He never really appeared to stop for long. Finally, he ended up in a nice series of benches in North facing timber, so protected from the storm that I was unable to track him any longer.
I had only cut a couple of other fresh tracks along the way, so I was somewhat discouraged at the lack of elk activity in the area. I decided I would hike back over to our camp, bag up my tent, and drive to another area about 7 miles South that I was familiar with.
My lightweight tent had served me well for 7 days (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
The scenery along the way was breathtaking, you just have to love the High Country!
High Country Gold (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Driving to the new area, I noticed less and less snow along the way. When I arrived, it was wet and muddy, but there was no snow on the ground. My plan was to walk down about a mile into a drainage I knew of, to a treestand over a wallow where I had killed two archery elk in years past.
the trails were heavily rutted under the treestand (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
“7 wallow” was the name of the spot, and the stand was named “Jeff’s Stand”, because I had killed the first elk in it years ago. Since the weather was clear, I thought it would be as good a place as any to assess the area for bugling activity. My plan was to give off a series of cow calls every 15 minutes or so. That formula had worked several times for me in the past.
One of the 7 wallows under the stand (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I heard two faint location bugles down the ridge that evening. At least the bulls were sounding off over here. With no elk coming in to the wallows, I decided to go to the rim in the morning and try my hand at getting one of the bulls to answer.
The morning was once again clear, cloudless! I found myself at first light, overlooking the drainage where I had heard the bulls the night before. My calling efforts produced nothing, so I headed down looking for fresh elk sign. I was not too impressed on the west side, so I began moving out of the dark timber toward the eastern rim, benching my way through South and East facing aspen slopes.
Day 3 sunrise from the Western Rim (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I found an elk bed on an aspen bench, that overlooked a big area where I could glass. As I was glassing, a small bull fired off toward the Eastern rim…my first instinct by the sound was “hunter”!
I fired a bugle back, and soon heard a bull much farther away, with deep chuckles at the end of his bugle. This sounded much more like the real thing.
The “hunter” (still assuming) and the bull across the canyon soon began a series of call and responses. The hunter sounded like he was moving my way in response to my bugle, so just in case he was the real thing, I set up my decoy facing his direction. I cow called, and immediately moved 20 yards right…just in case he might decide to launch a 90 yard shot at me.
My decoy from 80 yards (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Well, they must have figured out I was a hunter, because they soon sounded off much farther away. The bull in the canyon continued to answer, so I moved over that direction to see if I could get a lock on him.
The bull was bedded in a steep finger of dark timber across the canyon from me. The area was reachable from the rim, but it would be pure hell getting in and out of there. I decided to keep that option open for the next morning. I moved back over the aspen benches to the dark timber on the West side. I planned on following the best elk trails I could find down into the dark timber, to see where they would lead me.
the bull was bedded in miserably steep dark timber (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I ended up going down into the creek bottom, where I found several wallows and a lot of pre-storm elk activity. There was also a beautiful little waterfall that I couldn’t resist getting a picture of.
a small waterfall down in the creek benches (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I could not get anything to answer my calls, so I started the mid-day two mile hump back to the top again. On the way, I stopped at 7 wallow, which was invaded by Moo Cows…the scourge of the Wilderness in my opinion!
Moo Cows...scourge of the Wildnerness! (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
My evening hunt consisted of running back an forth along the rim from West to East, listening and looking for elk. As the sun set off the Western rim, I developed my plan for the morning…which consisted of diving off the East Rim into the bedding area of the bull I had located on my morning hunt.
A beautiful sunset on my third solo day (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
The South wind was relentless that night…and did not let up in the morning. I started by glassing off the rim at first light, looking and listening for the bull. Soon, I spotted a lone bull in a small opening in the timber, across the canyon from where he was bedded the day before. I decided I could drop down to his level and still keep the wind in my favor, if I stayed on the North side of the timbered ridge. I could only hope he would make his way over to my side, because he was virtually unreachable where I had glassed him.
As I carefully moved down the timber finger, I had to dig my SLIP pole into the ground to keep from sliding. The picture does not begin to do justice to how steep this canyon actually was!
The dark timber slope was seriously steep (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Stopping on the way, I glassed the South facing aspen benches across from me, and spotted a couple of cow elk! This was encouraging, I was hopeful that the elk had finally started moving to the South facing benches to feed in the mornings…in other words, they were relaxing back into a “normal” routine.
a cow elk feeding on the South face (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
At about 8:30, the bull let off a couple of locator bugles. Unfortunately, it sounded like he had made up his mind to bed down on the opposing ridge today. Since I was already committed, I continued down into the dark timber canyon. I had a good idea if it would ever flatten out into a bench, I would probably find water there.
Sure enough, about a half mile down, I came to a bench. I could see where the water came right out of the side of the mountain…and continued down in a series of small streams, marshes and wallows, for about 200 yards.
The first bench proved my suspicions (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
Finding no well used wallows, I decided to set up over the first good waterhole that had several rutted up trails coming in off the South face. I could think of worst places to sit for a couple hours, it was always very possible that something would move off the South facing benches if the South wind would die down, and it was definitely the closest water and timber to the elk I had spotted on the South benches. I switched my decoy cover on my SLIP trekking pole to camo, and re-configured it into an “elevated” camo blind I could use to draw my bow behind in case something came in to the waterhole below.
My ambush over the wallow (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
The South wind was still just relentless, and blasted through the timber and aspens. After around 11 AM, I decided I had played my last card for this area. I packed up and sweated my way back to the rim. I drove back to the Flat Tops where we had hunted the week before. I had a couple more drainages I needed to check.
I drove to the rim, to an area we named “the Rockpile”. This was a vicious canyon, but we had killed several nice bulls there in years past. Standing on the rim, the South wind was roaring. Glassing down, it looked a bit calmer in the lower benches. Oh well, no pain, no gain. I dove off the Rockpile.
The pond on the upper bench was a true testimony to a dry Year overall in Colorado. I had never seen it this low.
The Pond on upper Rockpile was as low as ever (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
The allure of the Rockpile: North facing heavy timbered ridges, with opposing South Facing semi-open aspen benches. The creek bottom in between was littered with wallows. The perfect formula for elk.
We had taken some fine bulls in this drainage in the past (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I decided if I didn’t see an encouraging amount of elk sign on the upper timber benches, that it wouldn’t be worth going all the way down. After a couple hours, I was not impressed, and headed back up to the top.
I had one final card to play. It was now 4 PM, and I had time to dive down into an area we call “Rodent’s Hole”. There are a series of wallow-laden benches below a North Facing dark timber ridge, and this was the area I had killed my last Colorado bull.
The wallow was definitely in use, but it was hard to tell when it had been hit last. The damn wind was just not letting up; it would be difficult to hear a bull unless it was pretty close.
The wallows were well-used in Rodent's Hole (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I set up my decoy across the park from the wallow on the downwind side. and began cow calling about every 10 minutes. I was getting desperate, I decided that if I could hear a bull, I would to everything in my power to get to it and try to kill it.
I shivered in the wind. Large banks of clouds whizzed by overhead. As the sun disappeared behind the ridge, I heard a faint bugle through the wind. I thought, “time to get ready to go mobile”, and got everything packed up and ready to move.
The bull bugles again…close! Maybe two hundred yards above me toward the timber. It was incredible how fast he appeared to be moving. I ran to try to intercept him, trying not to get directly under him because of the rising thermals.
I made a best guess and stopped. Immediately, I heard thumping hooves about 80 yards ahead through the timber. I popped my triple reed into my mouth, and let off a nasty challenge bugle. Then, silence.
Finally, I heard cow talk on the bench below. The herd had run around and under me, so I knew they hadn’t winded me yet. I popped open my decoy, and used it as a shield to move toward the elk below.
I soon encountered their tracks, they were still moving quickly down below me. When I dropped to the far edge of the swampy bench below, I saw a place I had never seen before! How could I have walked around this place and never seen it in years past. I was looking a vast meadow with a well used wallow sitting right in the middle of it. No doubt there were other wallows there I couldn’t see.
How had I never found this amazing place before? (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I cow called, looking for the herd. Suddenly, I looked toward the far end of the meadow, and there stood a lone bull, looking right at the decoy.
This bull was locked on my decoy (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
I cow called again, and moved the decoy around. I had his interest, until a huge gust of wind hit the aspens. The bull spun like a wild stallion, and bolted into the trees.
I had just enough light left to try to move to his position, in hopes he was holed up in the timber with his cows. I slowly advanced with my decoy shield out front, staying to the timber’s edge to try to avoid getting winded. When I finally got to the far end of the meadow, the elk were nowhere to be found. The wind had them nervous and moving fast down toward the creek a half-mile below. I knew I had played my last card.
My last Colorado Sunset for 2013 (Photo by Jeff Ervin)
As I stopped on the way out to take my last picture, I knew I was done. I had pounded my body for 12 days; I missed my Wife and my Children. Mother Nature and the elk had the final victory, but the rewards I had collected on this adventure went way beyond the act of harvest. I said a final prayer of thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing place, and for having the strength of body and spirit to endure it.
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